Monday, June 16, 2008

Naturally Clean

Partly because I'm worried about their effects on our bodies, and partly because I'm worried about their effects on the environment, I fear and loathe synthetic and animal-based chemicals. Animal-based chemicals are more of a problem with personal care products, but jeez!, household cleaners are rife with synthetic chemicals!

My concern with synthetic chemicals in my cleaning products is threefold: First, I find their immediate effects harmful. I don't want to use products that contain skin and/or lung irritants, particularly with the kids crawling all over me all day long, and I don't want any known poisons in the house, even if they do make the toilet bowl sparkle. Second, I'm very wary of the lack of long-term studies done on most synthetic chemicals, or just of the impossibility of identifying long-term effects. Sure, medical diagnosis is much sharper these days, and that explains somewhat why there are more diagnoses of certain illnesses lately, but I just think it's weird that rates of breast cancer, Alzheimer's, and autism just keep on rising. And third, you know good and well that most of these chemicals end up in the water supply somehow, through the sink or toilet or rinsed out in the washing machine or leaching out of the landfills, and you know that's not good.

So what do I clean with, when I actually do clean? Well, this morning, after Sydney spent the nearly five minutes I was on the computer copying down a shipping address for a pendant I'd sold on etsy dropping raw eggs on the living room floor (I know two-year-olds are idiots, but ?????), I wiped up the mess and then cleaned the floor with a spray bottle full of a homemade solution of Murphy's Oil Soap, water, and maybe a teaspoon of tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is an antibacterial and antifungal, Murphy's does contain miniscule amounts of potassium hydroxide and ethanol but is overall very mild, and water is, well, water.

After breakfast (which did NOT consist of eggs--thanks, Sydney) when I put a load of dishes in the dishwasher I used Seventh Generation's dishwashing powder, which is phospate-free. After the girls got dressed (well, I dressed Sydney, although she promptly undressed herself, and Willow dressed herself only in the striped green bloomers that came with an outfit Grandma Janie sent for Sydney. She wore those bloomers all day, until she ditched them in the side yard in favor of the wading pool shaped like a whale), I put a load of laundry in the washing machine with more Seventh Generation laundry liquid, and a couple of drops of tea tree oil since the load had some diapers. Then I cleaned out the really gross area of the basement where the main line used to overflow by essentially just dumping a bottle of hydrogen peroxide over it and, when it was finished fizzing, shoving it all over to the floor drain with a Dutch rubber broom. Hydrogen peroxide is a bleach and anti-microbial, and it rapidly breaks down into water and oxygen. Water and oxygen--yay.

Later, after lunch (leftover macaroni and cheese, salad greens, strawberries, and hambuger buns for the girls, who are obsessed with hamburger buns), I wiped up the table with a spray bottle full of a homemade solution of vinegar, water, and a teaspoon of tea tree oil. Vinegar is a degreaser, deoderant, and a rinse agent if you use it in the laundry.

God, when you break it down like that, it sounds like I actually did do something around the house today.

I like to clean with homemade stuff because I know I'll approve of the ingredients, I can tinker with them, and making your own stuff is WAY cheaper than buying it, especially if you're going the eco-friendly route. Sometimes I do make more exotic recipes. I looooove , although it's really hard to find some of the ingredients the author asks for, especially things like Fuller's earth, red turkey oil, soda ash, etc. I bought from several online stores, and never did manage to score the red turkey oil. From this book I often use the Rub-a-Dub Scrub for Wood Floors on the well-abused former library table in our living room, the Non-Streak Window Clarifier, and the Spray-On Fabric Cleaner.

I really like Green Clean: The Environmentally Sound Guide to Cleaning Your Home because it's primarily focused on environmentally sound methods, and thus covers things that the books focused on personal health sometimes don't, such as avoiding anything disposable (I used stained or ripped and unrepairable clothing as cleaning cloths, which drives both me and Matt crazy sometimes because he can't tell the difference somehow and just this morning dressed himself for work in a yellow plaid button-down shirt with mildew stains all up one sleeve (the original reason for the cleaning cloth status) and old cleaning stains all over the back. He was completely unreasonable when I pointed this out to him), composting food waste, and getting your name off of junk mail lists to reduce the amount of waste coming into the house.

is one of my favorites because the author is focused on developing a lifestyle in which you spend as little time as possible actually cleaning but you still live in a very clean house. She really likes organization, and says something like you know your disorganization is a problem if you have to buy a replacement for something you know you have but just can't find, especially if you don't need a second one of whatever it is. I was really feeling this yesterday when Matt had to stop by Joann's on the way home from his softball game, bleeding knee and all, to buy me a replacement seam ripper because I had to have it to finish up an item for my Craftster swap and just could not find it. I suspect children or cats. I'll be even madder when the original seam ripper shows up again because then I'll have two and seriously, how many people in this house need to be ripping seams at the same time? This is the author who also got me hooked on the steam cleaner--no chemicals, just steam!--and the Dutch rubber broom, which is made of a stiff rubber so you can mop with it using a damp rag on the floor, and which has a squeegee at an angle to the rubber broom part, so you can dry the floor.

Clean, Naturally: Recipes for Body, Home, and Spirit is a little more hippy, and the coexistence of hard-core cleaning recipes with recipes for shampoos and moisturizers for skeezes me out a little, but the recipe for Geranium Bug Repellant is AWESOME.

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